2008 Book Preview

We all may be doing a lot of reading this year, especially if TV continues to dish out so much reality crap. There are books that promise great adventure, books that already have movie deals, and books that look like the perfect companion on a cold winter’s night while we watch polling numbers come in or just don’t even bother to turn the tele on at all.

Here are just a handful of the titles we are looking forward to…

Beginner’s Greek by James Collins
Little, Brown
In shops now

Collins, a former editor of TIME, offers us a charmer of a novel in, “Beginner’s Greek.” Our leading man is Peter Russell, who has always imagined that the love of his life would just appear before him one day (clearly not a supporter of the e-dating scene). It is, in fact, on a flight from New York to Los Angeles that he meets Holly as she plows through some Thomas Mann. It’s love at first site until later on when he realizes that her phone number has completely vanished from his coat pocket. What ensues is a Cary Grant-esque romantic comedy of wonderful characters and sliding doors. If you judge this book by its cover, you’ll probably end up reading it in the aisle of your local bookshop.

Ascend: Special Edition by Keith Arem and Christopher Shy
IDW Publishing
In shops: late January 2008

So I wasn’t even familiar with the original edition of this graphic novel, but as the world of comics begins to meld with all the other arts, I best wise up to their ways. Like so much entertainment right now, this story is post-apocalyptic. It concerns three banished angels who are now in the midst of a great war here on Earth. Something also about a battle for human souls, which sounds both cool and creepy. This special edition has an extra 70 pages of art, new dialogue, and a more fleshed out story line. If you’re not familiar with this book, check out the trailer.

The Commoner by John Burnham Schwartz
Nan A. Talese / Doubleday
In shops: January 2008

This guy’s book, “Reservation Road” (not to be confused with “Revolutionary Road”) was adapted into a film that will be released later on this year. It’s directed by Terry George (“Hotel Rwanda”) and stars Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Ruffalo, Mira Sorvino and Jennifer Connelly. In his new one, “The Commoner,” we go to Japan in the late 1950’s, where our narrator, Haruko is a twenty-four year-old Empress. It’s a costly rags-to-riches tale in the vein of Amy Tan. While at Harvard, Schwartz majored in East Asian Studies, so he knows his stuff. Expect a well-researched and epic (but not heavy) tome.

Things I’ve Learned From Women Who’ve Dumped Me
Edited by Ben Karlin
Grand Central Publishing
In shops: 4 February 2008

Former ‘Daily Show’ exec producer Ben Karlin has put together some very funny essays, short scripts, lists, and even comics in this book about…well, you saw the title. Among the contributers we have: Stephen Colbert (a very short piece, but still giggle-worthy), Nick Hornby (who gives us the introduction), Patton Oswalt, Andy Richter (Lesson #2 – Girls Don’t Make Passes at Boys with Fat Asses), Dan Savage (his chapter is ‘I Am A Gay Man’), and a barrage of other funny folk. This will be a great gift for all the men in your life (and, frankly, the women in your life who like to have a laugh at the men in your life). Karlin’s mom pens the introduction, which, of course is titled: ‘I Think My Son Is A Catch.’

The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff
In shops: 5 February 2008

Last summer, Stephen King did his usual column in the back of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY. It was just before “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” was to be released, and this week’s column was called ‘Goodbye, Harry.’ He wrote about the sadness that comes when you reach the end of a book that you just do not want to see come to a close. He spoke of ‘magic, mysteries and monsters,’ and then ‘fessed up that it was not Harry Potter at all. Rather it was about the first novel from Lauren Groff, called “The Monsters of Templeton.” It’s tale is of a woman who returns to her hometown as the corpse of a fifty-foot monster floats to the top of a lake. And so we dive in to a world of monsters and secrets, and clawing away at the past to learn about these characters and creatures as myths and ghosts are soon overturned.

A Magic of Twilight: Book One of The Nessantico Cycle
by S.L. Farrell
DAW Books
In shops: 5 February 2008

There’s no question that fantasy genres are hotter than ever. Fantasy books, however, often sport dust jackets that would even scare Tolkien away. S.L. Farrell has penned no fewer than eighteen science fiction and fantasy novels, most notably the Celtic “Cloudmages” series. As the new cycle begins with “Twilight,” readers will be thrust into a city as bright and vivacious as many a European capital during the Renaissance. Faith, politics, chaos and conquest will converge upon a fiftieth anniversary Jubilee celebration in the capital of Nessantico. You’ve got dwarves, religious extremists, magic, opulence and armies, all at the ready. Only time will tell if the new series will appeal to Farrell fans as strongly as his previous work. Or, for that matter, if the rest of us need to pick up the movie-tie in once we see the visuals in a big Hollywood trailer.

The Lost City by Henry Shukman
Alfred A. Knopf
In shops: 22 February 2008

Though author, Henry Shukman lives in New Mexico, the U.K. got this title a year before we did, where it earned rave reviews. It’s about a twenty year-old named Jackson Small, recently discharged from military service after sustaining an injury, who journeys out in search of La Joya, the lost capital of an ancient Peruvian Empire. Along the way, he encounters great challenges of the landscape and a few individuals who, surprisingly, keep him on his path. THE GUARDIAN called this debut: “A gripping story of adventure, casual treachery and intrigue, and the redemption of an emotionally and morally ruined soul.” Picking the next book to read is like Sophie’s Choice, but I have faith that this one will not disappoint. Add to cart.

Last Last Chance by Fiona Maazel
FSG Books
In shops: 25 March 2008

There’s a lot going on in this debut from Brooklyn-based writer, Fiona Maazel. Not only does she have a great narrative voice, but her tale is completely original and delightfully absurd. Our heroine is Lucy Clark, who watches the love of her life and her best girlfriend from childhood get married (to each other, of course). Then there is the matter of a great plague that could very well be the end of the human race being blamed on her father. And finally, a little rehab in Texas to escape a slaughterhouse. From the first page, Maazel will bring you into this wonderful, crazy world. So go to your local bookshop this March, read the first few pages, and see if you can’t help but run up to the register with it.

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
Grand Central Publishing
In shops: May 2008

Before Tom Rob Smith churned out this thriller of a novel, his first, the 28 year-old Cambridge grad was snatched up by Grand Central for a two book-deal. “Child 44” is staged in Stalin’s Russia, and concerns a patriotic state security office on his way up the ranks, who is suddenly demoted and denounced when a serial killer is found to be on the loose. Smith is already at work on his second novel, which features characters from this story. Film rights for “Child 44” were grabbed by Ridley Scott and Fox 2000 Pictures.

The Rough Guide to Classic Novels by Simon Mason
Rough Guides
In shops: May 2008

For those of you who don’t have time to plow through actual books, how about a book on books? Rough Guides brings us the short version on everything we’re missing. This volume lists 200 of the greatest books in the history of publishing. And for the truly lackadaisical, each entry has got a list of related books to try, or (in a pinch) TV and film adaptations. Teenagers will love this when it rolls out just in time for final exams.

The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston with Mario Spezi
Grand Central Publishing
In shops: June 2008

Being touted in the vein of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” this true account begins when Preston decided to go all Diane Lane and move the family to a gorgeous Florence farmhouse. Much like ‘Midnight,’ this tale has it’s author being caught up in the murder mystery of which he writes. The Monster of Florence is a serial killer who committed a double-murder in the olive grove near Preston’s house. Spezi, an investigative journalist joins Preston to search for the killer, and they ultimately have a “chilling” (or so says the Grand Central catalogue) interview with him. Then, in a strange twist, our two writers become targets of the police investigation, and Preston is exiled from Italy. It sounds super-juicy. I’m actually writing this from my vestibule, waiting for the postman to deliver my advance copy.

Toward the Setting Sun
Columbus, Cabot, Vespucci, and the Race for America

by David Boyle
Bloomsbury USA
In shops: June 2008

So apparently these three guys knew each other back in the day. In pre-internet times (well, really after the fall of Constantinople in 1453), the hunt began for new trade routes. This territory hasn’t really been explored much lately. I mean, we could look back to movies like “1492,” but we’re just not gonna do that. Columbus, Cabot and Vespucci tracked each others movements in the hopes of getting financial backing for their next play, much like how studio execs in Hollywood track each other’s every lunch appointment today. Surely this one will be a hit with history buffs, but it’s such a big time on global history that this book my have a far wider reach.

Captives by Todd Hasak-Lowy
In shops: July 2008

When screenwriter Daniel Bloom begins his next project, about a nameless assassin hunting down the bad guys of the world, he gets a little too into it. As he realizes that he wants the events of his script to come true, it’s clearly a crisis on conscience and spirituality. So, off he goes to right himself on a personal odyssey to the heart of the matter. THE NEW YORK TIMES said Hasak-Lowy has got “explosive originality.” And, he lives in Gainsville, Florida. Hey, so does “Templeton” writer, Lauren Groff! You guys should do lunch!

Hero of the Underground: A Memoir
by Jason Peter with Tony O’Neill
St. Martin’s Press
In shops: July 2008
Video: Part 1, Part 2

If you haven’t noticed, we don’t so much cover sports here on the Hog. But when I saw the write-up on this title in St. Martin’s summer catalogue, I was completely taken aback. Jason Peters was an NFL first-round draft pick by the Carolina Panthers, but injuries made him retire after just five years. During his years playing American football, Peters was sent to the pharmacy for prescription painkillers, a common enough solution for sports injuries. He became addicted to them, however, (we’re talking 80 Vicodin a day) and those addictions quickly led to crack and later, heroin. In the memoir, Peters recounts the paranoia and shear bliss that came with those addictions; thinking that he was being watched, afraid he had murdered his girlfriend, and so on. This could very well be the real-life “A Million Little Pieces.”

One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell
In shops: August 2008

This is clearly the year for fierce and fabulous New York women in the entertainment arenas. We have ABC’s “Cashmere Mafia.” February will have Bushnell’s next television adaptation, “Lipstick Jungle” which premieres on NBC. In May, we have ‘Sex and the City: The Movie.’ In June, former SATC writer, Liz Tuccillo will put out her new novel, “How to be Single” And come August, it is the newest book from the woman who started it all. While the characters of “One Fifth Avenue” seem to be in-sync with every other move this new genre makes, we can maintain high hopes for the book with it’s fabulous, central location. Perhaps this will be a high-end ‘Melrose Place’ on Manhattan’s “gold coast.” Out of the five ladies in the novel, I am most looking forward to Nini, the grand dame of the place who has seen it all from her penthouse view. And I really hope that she has some fresh, sassy jabber to rejuvinate America’s obsession with the posh set.